Thetford blueprint almost ready

An ambitious town expansion blueprint aiming to bring 5,000 new homes and jobs to Thetford is almost ready for its submission to government inspectors.

In March, Breckland Council completed a five-week consultation on its draft Thetford Area Action Plan (TAAP) which is intended to guide planning policies and shape the town’s development during the next 15 years.

A total of 862 comments were submitted by 150 different people and organisations, which have been considered in the amended plan discussed by the council’s cabinet on Tuesday.

Cabinet members agreed to add their recommendations before passing the plans to Breckland’s full council, which will be asked to publish the revised document for a period of at least six weeks.

Principal planning policy officer David Spencer said this represented the final opportunity for the authority to shape the plan before it is publicly examined by a government inspector.

His report says: “The proposed submission document presented is intended to be a detailed and comprehensive document that enables communities, landowners and developers to understand what the ‘map’ for their community will look like for the next 15 years.”

Thetford’s urban extension plan centres on a large tract of land between the town’s northern boundary and the A11.

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One of the concerns raised was that the expansion was unnecessarily being channelled in only one direction to avoid protection zones for stone curlews to the south of the town.

Some people argued the growth strategy was unsound because there was not enough robust evidence to prove the birds’ habitats were affected by development.

Mr Spencer’s report says the best available evidence justified a precautionary approach, as there was no certainty that potential development areas to the south and east of the town could be used to meet growth targets.

The study also showed 62pc of respondents were against the controversial proposed move of Thetford bus interchange to Minstergate – but that plan remains an allocation in the TAAP submission document.